Interview: Melissa Wyse, Founder of Idlewild Arts Retreat

The inaugural Idlewild Writers Retreat is October 14-17, 2016, and I spoke with founder and organizer, writer Melissa Wyse, about making her dream of a New England artists retreat a reality:

Jen Michalski: So the market for writers retreats gets a new addition this fall with Idlewild! Can you tell us a little more about its genesis?

Melissa Wyse: I’ve been thinking about holding this retreat for a long time now. I know how much of a difference it makes in my own work to have creative time and space to write, and to have a strong community of fellow writers. This retreat is a way I can offer writers this same creative space and community: quiet time to work on their own writing projects, along with opportunities to gather together with other writers.

JM: How is Idlewild different than other retreats? What can residents expect during their stay, in terms of socialization, sights, meals, accommodations?


MW: I’m so excited to be hosting this inaugural retreat in the Quiet Corner of New England! This northeastern corner of Connecticut is a beautiful, scenic, rural area full of hiking trails, art galleries, and antique shops. We’ll be gathering at a historic house that used to be a bed and breakfast, so it has really lovely, spacious accommodations and great spaces to write and to spend time together as a community. It also backs directly to the Airline Trail, which is perfect for writers who want to get out for a walk, or enjoy the autumn leaves in New England.

Our program gives writers lots of quiet creative time and space to work on their projects—whether that means starting a new piece of writing or continuing work on an existing project. We’ll all gather together in the evenings for community dinners and to enjoy optional readings. We’ve also partnered with a wonderful artist and UMASS Medical School-trained mindfulness practitioner, Carolyn Wagner. Carolyn will offer sessions on mindfulness and creative practice, and we’ll offer optional daily guided writing sessions, as well, for writers who wish to participate. The program is really designed to be flexible and to allow writers to use this time and space in the way that best serves their own writing practice.

We welcome writers at all stages of the creative process. So often as writers and artists, our work is fluid: we move between genres or creative mediums, we try something new, explore a new creative outlet. At Idlewild, there is no yardstick for community belonging. We invite all writers to come and deepen their creative practice, to give themselves creative space to develop their work, whether that be continuing intensive revisions to a longtime project, or allowing some space for a new idea to percolate.  All writers are welcome to join us, and the writers gathering for Idlewild form an incredibly warm, supportive, open community.

Because we’re holding our retreat in such a great agricultural center, we’ll be serving simple meals sourced mostly from local farms and markets. We’ve been working with some terrific local farms and bakeries in the months leading up to the retreat, and we’re excited to share meals with everyone in October.

It promises to be a wonderful community of fellow-writers!

JM: Which disciplines are welcome? Will you expand to offer space for artists and musicians? Also, will there be any financial assistance offered in the forms of scholarships or work-study?


MW: Our retreat this October is a Writers Retreat, so we’re welcoming anyone who’s working on a writing project, whether that be a novel or short story, a memoir or essay, a poem, a blog, or even an artist statement or another piece of writing.

We aren’t able to offer studio space for visual artists or musicians at this first retreat, though we hope to have these facilities available in the future. However, if you’re a visual artist who doesn’t need studio space (if, for example, you’re working on a photography, sketchbook, or plein air painting project), or if you’re a composer who works without using an instrument, please do reach out! We’d love to have you join us.


I would love to be able to offer scholarships for Idlewild retreats in the future. Sadly, we don’t have scholarships available this year. We are, however, offering an early registration discount through this Friday, September 9.

The inaugural Idlewild Writers Retreat is October 14-17, 2016, coming soon! To register and find out more, visit the Idlewild Arts website.

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